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Minister Thoko Didiza: Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture

19 Dec 2019

Minister Thoko Didiza updates the nation on the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture recommendations that were not supported by cabinet.

On 24 July 2019, Cabinet received the Report of the Presidential Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture chaired by Dr Vuyokazi Mahlati, which made recommendations.  Once again, Government extend its appreciation on the work that the panel has done in highlighting areas that government must continue to address in respect of land reform and agricultural development in our Country.

It is important to note that the mandate of the Panel was to give an independent appraisal of governments’ land reform process looking at the policy and legislative frameworks as well as institutional arrangements. In addition, the Panel had to reflect on the Parliamentary Constitutional Review Process on Expropriation without Compensation. The brief also extended to issues of agricultural development and spatial planning. As it can be seen from the report of the panel it used multiple processes to arrive at their recommendations. They reviewed existing documentation such as policies and legislation as well as undertaking consultation with a range of stakeholders including government departments and state entities.

The panel also looked at how the institutional framework across government on operational matters including the transparent nature on land allocation as well as land disposal. Attention was also given on the funding of land reform as well as proposals on how this important mandate can also leverage on those private individuals who are willing to donate land to the state for land reform purposes. The panel also proposes some interventions that can induce more land release. Given its time frame it can be appreciated that some recommendations could not be extensively canvassed and therefore further work on some will have to be undertaken.

The impact of the recommendations across government, informed Cabinet decision that all departments should study the report and its recommendations and indicate how they will address matters arising out of the said recommendations. Cabinet asked the Inter Ministerial committee on Land Reform and Agriculture to coordinate departmental inputs and send a report to cabinet by September 2019.

In its first meeting the IMC noted that the panel had not concluded its consultation with traditional leaders before tabling their report to Cabinet in July 2019. The IMC then advised the advisory panel to undertake this process in order to ensure that all stakeholders have expressed their views on this important matter.

In the examination of the report a number of departments noted that some of the issues raised or reflected upon by the advisory panel were matters that are already being addressed. Therefore, in large measure the recommendations were seen as the affirmation of the work already being done and also sharpening and giving alternatives on how some of these processes can be undertaken.

The recommendations also made proposals on policy and legislation gaps such as the policy on land tenure that will address communal and traditional land tenure in South Africa. Other recommendations spoke to programmatic interventions that are required to address matters including coordination amongst spheres of government.

Almost all the recommendations were accepted and government will address issues raised in these recommendations. There were some recommendations that were not accepted not because the issues raised were not important, but such recommendations required further engagement which are of a policy nature and as such particular processes will need to be undertaken to arrive at the policy and legislative system.

On the agreed recommendations the relevant departments would develop action plans to ensure implementation is undertaken. The IMC from time to time will receive reports on the implementation.

The following recommendations were not supported by Cabinet:

The following recommendations were not supported by Cabinet:

1. The panel recommended that Land Reform must be informed by an agreed vision for Agrarian Reform:

The view of government is that the current White Paper on Land Policy of 1997 is still adequate in its application. It covers broad land administration framework as well as define approaches for land reform to address unequal land ownership patterns in our country. It also creates the framework for tenure reform policy. The White Paper also appreciates that land reform not only covers agrarian reform but address a variety of land needs. It therefore cannot be true that land reform must be informed by an agreed vision for agrarian reform. On the contrary, there should be an agricultural vision that supports agrarian reform, which incidentally had been developed in the 2000 which was widely consulted in the development of the Strategic Plan for South African Agriculture which reads “A United, prosperous agricultural sector for South Africa” This vision acknowledged that the scale and size of operation that need to be supported by various land use patterns. This element is covered in the current proposals and therefore a review given the challenges of climate change may merit a development of a new agrarian reform vision.

2. The panel proposes significant measures to unlock urban state land for affordable housing and the creation of more inclusive towns and cities. The recommendation is broadly supported however the challenge is with respect to certain mechanisms that are being proposed as interventions.

3. The Panel proposed the review of the Office of the Valuer-General and its function in-line with the Property Valuations Act to ensure that the compensation determined in the event of expropriation for land reform purposes is just and equitable, and not purely market value based, this must be aligned with the compensation being proposed by the Panel;

The view of the government is that what the Panel recommends is what is the status quo currently. The OVG as well as its functions are in line with the Property Valuations Act. Currently the determination of what is just and equitable is the matter of debate in the parliamentary process on the amendment of Section 25.       

4. The Panel proposed that government must developed a unified land administration system for the country with a proposal to develop a new Green and White Paper that will include land administration chapter.

5. The view of the government is that the current White Paper does include land administration however what may need to be expedited is a unified and administrative system and where possible the amendment of the Deeds Registry Act to include the recordal of informal land rights in the former homeland and communal areas. The proposed New Green and White paper on Land may take longer to address some of the immediate challenges and therefore is a long term program.

6. Transfer responsibility for Rural Development from DRDLR, and locate its coordination within Presidency, possibly within DPME.  This recommendation is mute as the decision was already taken in the configuration of government in the sixth administration.    

7. Establish or delegate central authority with clear powers and responsibilities to proactively manage state land and ensure that such an authority meet its broad obligations and balance the interest of potentially competing Department.  The view of government is that the Inter Ministerial Committee on Land and Agriculture Chaired by the Deputy President addresses what the Panel was recommending. At the present SALGA is a participant in the IMC which ensures that municipal interests are taken into consideration. This process of the IMC ensures coordination and managing of competing needs without removing legislative competence.

8. Establish a National Land Rights Protector for managing higher-level conflict especially between the State and the Citizens. The view of government is that what this proposed recommendation seeks to address may be covered in the expanded mandate of the Land Courts Bill that the panel itself has recommended.

9. The Panel recommended that government should create the Land Reform Fund. The view of government is that currently there may not be merit on setting up of such a fund. The optimum and judicious use of current budget allocation can still address the resource required for land reform.

10. Establish a Land and Agrarian Reform Agency. The view of government is that the new configuration of the department which now combines the department of agriculture and land reform will address the concerns that necessitated the panel to make this recommendation.

11. Land Tax Inquiry. The view of government is that there was a tax enquiry that was undertaken by the Ministry of Finance which included issues of land tax which have been incorporated in the property rates legislation as well as capital gains tax.

In its discussion Cabinet noted that some of the recommendations may require further work such as:

The Panel further recommends an in-depth assessment into the conditions for the application of land ceilings. Consideration should be given on the imposition of land ceilings to limit the total area of land that anyone individual or company may own, so as to limit and reverse the trends towards concentration of land ownership which is antithetical to land reform. Such ceilings must be varied across agro-ecological zones. The state must be empowered in law to compulsory acquire surplus land and to determine which and is required for redistribution.

While government notes the intent and the spirit of this recommendation, its views are that further investigation will have to be undertaken.

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